Bay Area TV news crew held up in armed robbery attempt during interview

Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong speaks into a microphone
Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong has warned of a recent spike in violent crime throughout the city, urging for more funding for the Police Department.
(Gabrielle Lurie/The San Francisco Chronicle)

A TV interview of an Oakland violence prevention official was interrupted by violence on Monday when two armed suspects attempted to steal the crew’s camera and equipment.

The attack occurred outside City Hall amid spiking crime rates in Oakland, and less than three hours after the police chief blasted the City Council for cutting funds to the Police Department’s budget.

Newscasters from the KNTV were filming the interview with Guillermo Cespedes, the director of the Department of Violence Prevention, when the robbers attempted to steal the TV crew’s camera and equipment. A scuffle ensued, and a private security guard pulled out a gun and ordered the suspects to leave. The two fled without the camera, and no injuries were reported.

“Our colleagues were conducting an interview at Oakland City Hall when they were approached by two armed individuals,” said Liza Catalan, a spokeswoman for NBC Bay Area. “Thankfully our colleagues are safe and unharmed.”

Officer Johanna Watson, a spokeswoman for the Oakland Police Department, confirmed the incident in a statement and said the suspects have not been found.

“A local media news crew was filming at City Hall when two armed suspects approached the camera man and attempted to take his camera,” Watson said. “A scuffle ensued, the armed security officer pulled his firearm out, and directed the suspects to leave.”

Police initially released information about the incident in a statement but did not identify Cespedes as a victim. Cespedes later spoke with the San Francisco Chronicle and confirmed he was at the scene of an attempted robbery.

Hours before the attempted robbery, Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong held a news conference, slamming the City Council for passing a budget that will cut the police force’s funding by $18 million. He warned of the recent spike in violent crime throughout the city, urging that more department funding was necessary.

“We find ourselves in a crisis,” Armstrong said at the news conference Monday. “We find ourselves reeling from a weekend of violence where we have seen four homicides over a three-day period. It now has us currently at 65 homicides for the year — that’s a 90% increase compared to last year.”

The Department of Violence Prevention was developed in 2017 to help the city of Oakland develop community-led, non-police intervention strategies. Cespedes, a former Los Angeles anti-violence expert, joined the department in 2019.